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Paul Schwarz

Co-Founder | 08 Jun 2012

Back in 2006, when we entered the world of digital signage, it was poised to be the next big thing in the advertising industry. Screens seemed to be mushrooming around us; but something seemed to be hampering this otherwise beautiful growth story. Looking back, we now know that the Indian market simply was not ready to take on this modern medium. Despite the scale that some DOOH network operators had achieved, advertisers did not seem to buy in convincingly and sustainably.

Paul Schwarz, Co-Founder of En Route Media, is a German national who has established a track record in the areas of finance and business studies. Schwarz has worked in strategy consulting with Oliver Wyman’s General Management Consulting arm in Dubai. He has worked and lived in three different countries, and hence, brings a diverse and objective perspective to the company.

Here are excerpts from Priyanka Nair’s conversation with him:

Q. There are various outdoor agencies that offer taxi advertising. How is En Route different from them?

We are a media owner network. We innovative the hardware, software and content for in-taxi advertising and provide an end-to-end platform to media agencies and clients. Flo is our first such product for in-taxing advertising. Flo is an advanced tablet-like device embedded in cabs; it proves to be a powerful advertising platform because of its strategic location in a captive cab environment. Its touch screen interactivity, sound-enabled hardware and accountable software analytics offer advertisers a ground-breaking digital out of home solution.

Q. How can a brand analyse its campaign using Flo?

Flo’s proprietary software makes it easy to maintain accountability, as each screen’s interactions get wirelessly tracked by a central server. This allows for accurate analysis of popular content and degree of advertisement engagement.

Q. Do you think digital signage will be the next wave of new media in OOH five years down the line?

Back in 2006, when we entered the world of digital signage, it was poised to be the next big thing in the advertising industry. Screens seemed to be mushrooming around us, but something seemed to be hampering this otherwise beautiful growth story. Looking back, we now know that the Indian market simply was not ready to take on this modern medium. Despite the scale that some DOOH network operators had achieved, advertisers did not seem to buy in convincingly and sustainably.

Today, it feels like we are once again standing before a massive explosion of this industry. Only this time, it seems to have become a reality. Traditionally, digital signage in India started off by being nothing but a dynamic replacement of static billboards. As we all know, digital signage of this kind hasn’t taken off in India yet, with advertisers limiting their spends to initial experimentation. The only solution to make best use of digital signage is when media owners closely work with creative agencies to come up with innovative engagement.

Q. Which are the major clients in your kitty right now?

CBS, Economist, Bosch & Siemens’ washing machine range are the current clients we have on board for regular campaigns. Apart from these, we have many other brands such as Garnier, ET Now, Tata Docomo, Volkswagen and McDonalds for whom we roll out specific campaigns as per their requirements. Recently we collaborated with Buzzr to bring deals on digital signage for the first time in India.

Q. What are key factors that a brand needs to keep in mind while planning to invest in taxi advertising?

Content is the main reason why digital signage has not succeeded yet. If any screen wants to go beyond being just a digital billboard, it needs to incentivise viewers to look at it for a longer time. It’s simple: if no one is looking at your screen, you don’t have a medium. Some of the players have added some semblance of relevant content by including news updates or cricket scores, but there is still a long way to go, and a lot to learn.

Brands should invest time in creating crisp content for digital signages. Screens placed in locations with very low foot traffic, or no opportunity for any dwell time are never going to be useful for the advertiser; it will only reduce RoI and faith in the medium. Typically TVCs have been used on screens which don’t even have sound. This removes a majority of the impact from the ad, and drastically reduces brand recall when compared to that achieved by TV itself. To best leverage the medium, either the creative teams need to create ads specifically for the medium, or at least have sound-enabled screens.

Q. Which are the brands you think should incorporate in-taxi advertising in their media plan?

Consumer durable goods and the auto mobile sector can leverage in-taxi advertising at its best.

Q. What are your future plans?

Currently, Flo is already installed in nearly 300 of Carzonrent's EasyCabs in Mumbai. We are in the process of finalising a deal with a new taxi network. We are focusing on being present in three metros targeting 1500 cabs by the end of the year.

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